"The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside." [Begins to cry]A common saying among chefs is that "you first eat with your eyes." Cooks who produce this food apparently expect everyone eating to be blind. It could take several forms - maybe it's collapsed into an indistinct brown or grey glop in a bowl. It would be a misshapen mound that vaguely looks like a cake. Random tentacles and eyes could be mixed in. If it's a cake, expect the decorations to be something out of the wildest imagination of a Nightmare Fetishist (whether or not the cook is actually one). The appearance of the dish is no indication of its taste, and the most common outcome of this trope is that the food is actually delicious. Those wary of the dish at first may even find it Orgasmically Delicious when they get up the courage to try it. Keep in mind, of course, that this is completely distinct from a Lethal Chef or a Cordon Bleugh Chef - in fact, while food such as this is a frequent indicator of one of those two tropes, it's increasingly common to have overlap with Impossibly Delicious Food (though most people will expect it to Taste Like Feet). It can overlap with Alien Lunch in appearances. Can easily be Truth in Television - even in culinary schools, presentation is taught distinct from flavor, and it's fairly common for students to be much better at the latter.
— Morbo, Futurama
Examples:Anime & Manga
- Tina from Ai Yori Aoshi - as Taeko discovered, Tina's inability to make anything looking good did not stop her from making food that actually tastes good.
- Ryo from Otomen can occasionally (usually with Asuka's help) produce food that tastes decent. However, it will invariably look terrible.
- Naru from Love Hina is known to produce food that looks awful but tastes good.
- Asuna's first cake from the first anime adaptation of Mahou Sensei Negima!. The second came out looking much better. Appropriate, as she's an Expy of the above.
- Akane of Ranma ˝ combines this with Lethal Chef - she creates food that is both inedible and hideous to look at. The only exception is her curry, which is edible (if bland)... but still hideous to look at.
- Axis Powers Hetalia: England's food is mostly portrayed as an indeterminable black mess. Sometimes it even gets pixeled out to emphasize this.
- Sora from Download App Girl makes food that looks downright frightening. Somehow, it still manages to taste really good.
- Usagi in Sailor Moon is usually just a general Lethal Chef producing only food that both looks and tastes awful. However in the second season she pulls off making a curry that looks literally like a mess on a plate but that actually tastes pretty good. In the third film her daughter Chibiusa makes some badly decorated cookies that taste lovely, Usagi herself in this instance does the reverse... her cookies look nice but taste bad.
- Detective Conan: When Ran (or Rachel) tried to bake a lemon pie for the first time ever in volume 18, it turned up looking messy and burnt. But everyone says it tastes good.
- The curry dish that Nao Sadatsuka from Shokugeki no Soma made for the Fall Classic prelims looks and smells like dirty sewers, but it's actually very delicious, and is the first dish from the batch to score 80s (until then, the average scores had been 30s).
- The Cook from the Sturmtruppen will often serve this. It was once exagerrated when the mess came alive as a Blob Monster in a parody of Frankenstein.
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel): One issue shows Joe candidates going through Training from Hell. This includes their meals, which are described by Chef of Iron Roadblock as "mystery meat on a shingle". One of the candidates muses "How do they get it so gray?".
- In the Legend of Korra fanfic a million miles of fun, the "Grand Slam Croquette" is a fritter containing boiled eggs, duck sausage, curried pork, red bean paste, and sticky rice. The description garners a cringe from Ghazan.
- The soup Chef Muk cooks in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon fanfic Legendary Genesis is described as looking similar to the sludge making up her body.
- In one chapter of the Lilo & Stitch fanfic Alpha and Omega, the cafeteria lady serves them "mushroom-and-mashed-potato-surprise". As 302 quips:
The only thing that gets me to eat this stuff is the knowledge that I'll never know what the 'surprise' is. If I knew, I'm sure I'd never eat it again.
The green stuff was rather chunky, with odd dark circles embedded in the mass. The purple stuff, on the other hand, looked hard and tough, although it was very irregularly shaped.
- When 349 tried to rob the Chef, Jumba had to pay her double her salary to not force-feed the experiment "Last Tuesday Surprise".
- In another chapter, the food is described thusly:
- Starship Troopers (the movie) had a scene where the recruits are in the chow line, loading up their trays with what appear to be different colors of pudding. Emphasized by one of them holding a ladle full up at eye level and disgustedly pouring it out.
- In Accepted, Glen creates a recipe he calls "Wads" that look like a well, wad of melted chocolaty goo. The others recoil at first, but once they get brave enough to taste them they rave that it's the greatest thing they've ever eaten.
- In Sleeping Beauty the fairies decide to make a dress and birthday cake for Aurora. Having sworn not to do magic, they quickly start to fumble everything up. The cake is made with whole eggs (shells still on), is (somehow) layered and iced before baking, and looks like The Leaning Tower of Pisa if it were painted by Picasso. They finally decide screw it and fix everything with magic.
- In Better Off Dead, the mother is spooning grey-green goo (with raisins!) directly onto Lane's plate. He pokes it with his fork and it crawls away.
- The omelet from hell Latrine serves to King John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. There are intact eyeballs in it, and that's not the most visually disturbing part.
- Molly in Moon Over Soho whenever she tries to cook anything that isn't High Victorian, on one occasion producing what is described as rubbery vulcanised mass that looks like one of those novelty vomit mats sold in Joke Shops (it was supposed to be lightly poached eggs in hollandaise sauce).
- In one of the Myth Adventures stories, Skeeve, having never seen spaghetti, describes it as white worms or snakes covered with blood red sauce.
- In Artemis Fowl, a sandwich that Artemis tried to make is described as looking like an explosion on a plate.
- In Feet of Clay, Vimes suspects Vetinari is being poisoned by something inside the palace so he sends out for a Klatchian takeaway for him on the rationale that "they can't poison all the food in the city". Vetinari's reaction is to Stab the Salad and ask Vimes "did someone already eat this?"
- In The Bliss Bakery, Rose sends her little brother to collect a magic ingredient. He brings her the wrong one, which looks exactly like the one she wanted, and the cookies that should have become pink and pretty turn black.
- In The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Stew. It doesn't necessarily taste bad, but its main qualities are that you can't, at least not very easily, tell what's in it, and that it's so ubiquitous that you will get incredibly tired of eating it. To the point where the entry for "Food" reads "1. See STEW."
- A popular classic Sesame Street skit has Ernie making a plate of mashed banana with ice cubes and gravy on it. Bert is disgusted by its mere appearance, but guess what Oscar thinks?
- Star Trek occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. Synthesized food in the original series, and occasionally replicated food from the later series, tends to get this treatment.
- Babylon 5 occasionally has food that is unappetizing to behold. The dish Spoo comes to mind.
- Johnny Bago: When Johnny temporarily joins a circus (not that he wanted to join, he was blackmailed into it) the owner/ringmaster literally feeds the circus workers on garbage leftover from the previous day's crowds, all of which looks like scoops of brown blegh.
- In an episode of the classic paramedics drama Emergency!, the heroes save the life of a celebrity chef, who rewards them with an autographed copy of his latest book. When they later try to put together a dinner for the rest of the crew at their station using the book, they swiftly realize that they did something wrong and that dinner is ruined. They dump everything they were cooking into a single pot in order to hide the evidence. Just as they're taking it out back to dump it, the fire crew comes back and assumes dinner is ready. Despite having an odd gray color and the consistency of paper mache paste, the "stew" is universally deemed fantastically delicious by the other fire fighters, and the crew expects it to be made again in the future.
- Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" has one verse about dealing with the intersection of this and the usual wares of a Lethal Chef: "I don't care what these people think I'm just sittin' here makin' myself nauseous with this ugly food that stinks!"
- Frequently produced by Calvin's mom in Calvin and Hobbes.
- Foxtrot: Surprisingly, not Andy's cooking, though it frequently involves tofu. The cafeteria glop qualifies, however.
- The traditional military dish of this sort is chipped beef on toast—better known to soldiers as "shit on a shingle." It tastes fine, but neither its appearance nor its name does it any favors.
- The freeze-dried ingredients of many MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) rations also count, as many look rather bland and unappealing regardless of actual taste. Those who eat this food often refer to it as "Three lies for the price of one": it's not a meal, it isn't ready, and you can't eat it. Other backronyms include Meals Refusing to Exitnote , Materials Resembling Edibles, Meals Regurgitated by Everyone, and even Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.
- Standard MREs no longer use freeze-dried mains due to the inconvenience of having to reconstitute them. The retort-pouches of later generation maintain better but still not great consistency and the general edibility is ever improving. The Omelette is still a universally reviled Mush, Resemblance to Excrement.
- The Hawaiian islanders—and most of Polynesia—have a dish called "poi," which is made from the root of the taro plant. It is purple, and has the consistency (and taste!) of Elmer's glue. It's a staple food, intended to be eaten with something more flavorful.
- The classic "Chinese" (actually Chinese-American, but a version of it originated in Taishan) dish widely known as "Chop Suey" started as this: originally, it was a half-dozen different left-overs thrown together in a pot and served.
- "Nutraloaf" is an American prison food commonly served to inmates with serious discipline/behavior problems. It consists of several different foods (meat, bread/grain, apples, eggs, vegetables, beans, etc.) mixed together and baked into a meatloaf-like shape. Inmates eat it off a paper plate instead of a tray, without utensils. It is so universally reviled that inmates in several states have filed lawsuits to stop its use, arguing that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. A generous application of Tabasco sauce helps, allegedly.
- Quite a few students of the American public school system would argue that their cafeteria food falls under this trope. Not an impossibility in a school that serves meals such as mass produced beef and noodles, for instance.
- Casseroles of most any kind are a staple in large households. They're rarely pretty, but are usually the quickest and cheapest way to get everyone fed and a remotely competent chef can make some very tasty and satifying meals that fill the house with wonderful cooking smells.
- Many dips and fondues look worse than they taste, even before digging scoops out of the surface. Refried bean dips in particular look and smell similar to dog food.
- Some thick soups and stews have the appearance and texture of fresh vomit. Split pea soup, for example, makes a very effective fake vomit prop.
- Mämmi, a Finnish dish traditionally eaten on Easter, is thick, dark brown paste made of molasses and rye, and it looks suspiciously like something that's already been eaten once. It's something of an acquired taste, but can be made rather tasty when paired with some sugar or vanilla sauce.
- Poutine evokes this, both in appearance in name.note
- In Dream Girl, one Dream Sequence has a throwaway reference (in the context of fine dining) to "oysters Rockefeller, which Ford Madox Ford, who was a great epicure, describes as swimming in a kind of green scum."
- The protagonist of Serendipity Next Door is a food lover and a very good cook, but judging by the reactions of other characters, the food she makes tends to look uniformly horrible even though it tastes just fine. When she makes dinner for Shinobu and Keiichi, the latter complains that every single dish is brown. This seems to be mostly coming from an attitude that what a meal looks like shouldn't affect the taste; when Masaomi complains about her cheap dishes, she asserts that it tastes just as good on a cheap plate as an expensive one, and is surprised when he counters that how food is presented affects how good people think it will be.
- Schlock Mercenary has a restaurant chain that serves 'smutto,' a combination of corn smut (basically mold), and natto (fermented soybeans). It looks, smells and tastes so vile that even Schlock (who'll eat pretty much anything) hesitates before eating it.
Schlock: "And you just automatically give it to people who say 'number two'."
- Subsequently, someone cooked it in real life. It doesn't look all that much more edible, until it's rolled in a tortilla - which at least holds the goo in.
The Old Wolf: I happen to like both of these things on their own, so I'm willing to take a chance, and - oh golly, that looks hideous.
Howard Taylor (After watching Smutto being cooked and eaten): Oh what horrors hath been wrought by my careless pen...
- Subsequently, someone cooked it in real life. It doesn't look all that much more edible, until it's rolled in a tortilla - which at least holds the goo in.
- Sam & Fuzzy had a storyline where Sam refused to leave his apartment for a week due to severe depression from being fired from his job. As their food runs out, he ends up making this for dinner.
Sam: You dont like my cooking?Fuzzy: Not when its just flour and water mixed together!Sam: Oh shut up and eat your Flour Paste!
- Space Janitors, similar to Starship Troopers above, has rations that have the consistency and look of different kinds of thin pudding, served in a segmented tray. It's outright called "Mush", and it's referred to by color instead of flavor (except for the dessert "Sweet mush", which is pink and has sprinkles floating in it). However, Imperial citizens regard eating good, proper meat on par with cannibalism (almost certainly a joke and not any political agenda from the team).
- Bender's final presentation in the Futurama episode "The 30% Iron Chef."
Morbo: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside. [Begins to cry]
- Several episodes of The Simpsons have the family eating indistinct grey slop, likely due to artist shorthand, since the food isnt supposed to be disgusting. One episode in particular had Homer try to make food from a giant pile of sugar he stole from a crashed tanker truck, with the result that not only did the food look like slop, it was nausiatingly sweet and full of debris and broken glass.
- Another episode, which uses a "Rashomon"-Style narrative has Marge serving a healthy new breakfast food called Muslix, which is pretty much just a sticky, blobby mess. She also gave Maggie Juicelix to drink, which turns out to have the consistency of glue.